Colleges and potential employers don’t tend to be interested in the technicalities when it comes to criminal convictions. There are legal differences between a child being convicted of a crime as opposed to being a juvenile delinquent. But either one of these sounds bad to a prospective academic institution or headhunter. Should this information become available to the public, the main concern of the scout would be the nature of the crime and the underlying issues at play. By sealing juvenile delinquency records, and completely destroying them in certain circumstances, the state of New York helps to keep a child’s mistakes from following them through the rest of their adult life.
The Process of Juvenile Sealing
There are numerous laws and rules that regulate the destruction and sealing of the juvenile justice files found in the Family Court. This is where juvenile records are kept, rather than being kept with adult criminal records in other courthouses. These laws all pertain to legislation that’s on the books in New York state. Other states all have their own regulations and minutiae regarding the sealing of juvenile records. Not all states do seal or destroy juvenile records, which can cause a detrimental impact on the individual’s future.
In New York, any delinquency proceeding that has a favorable outcome for the child involved will automatically be sealed. The only exception to this is if, sometime in the eight days following the case outcome, the court or any involved party files a motion stating that sealing the record would inhibit the interests of justice.
The following circumstances would be considered a favorable outcome for the child:
- The charges being dropped or dismissed
- The child being acquitted and found not guilty
- The child’s guardians being investigated for misconduct
Ultimately, a favorable outcome is one that indicates that the child was dragged through the justice system for nothing. In these cases, it’s only fair and just to seal the case. When an employer or educator does a background check, the existence of any court case might taint a child’s future, even if they were clearly acquitted. It’s much better for the record to be hidden from public view.
Of course, there are cases in which a child will be found guilty. In the state of New York, they may be adjudicated as a delinquent. Unlike with an acquittal or dismissal, the record would not undergo automatic sealing. Aside from a few exceptions, though, it is possible for the Family Court to seal these records if the child indicates they desire this in writing when they turn sixteen. Typically, the child’s attorney will be the one to draft and present the written motion to the court.
Before the motion itself is sent out, the attorney must send a notice of the motion to the Family Court or other relevant agency. This notice must be sent out at least eight days prior to the motion’s return date. If the court replies with an affidavit, it must be served a minimum of two days prior to the motion’s return date. This requirement has been put in place to make sure that whatever agency is responsible for the prosecution is able to review the motion. Should they feel an opposition is necessary, they can then mount an opposition.
If no opposition is mounted and the judge grants the request to have the record sealed after a conviction, the sealed record might be available to the child in question or a designated agent of the child. Usually that will be a guardian or the child’s attorney. On top of this, the papers and records of the juvenile justice system’s probation department might be used by any future probation department. However, the probation department cannot use the sealed records in any investigations or reports they prepare.
There is a difference between the complete and partial sealing of juvenile records. Some juvenile records will still be available to the public since police records aren’t covered by the the juvenile sealing statutes.